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article imageOp-Ed: Is the call for an Article V Convention wise?

By Karen Graham     Jan 19, 2014 in Politics
For over two hundred years, the American people have relied on a document written by our founding fathers that established a strong, but limited government, specifically designed to protect an individual's rights and freedoms.
But over the years since that original document was written, our government and those individual rights that needed protection eroded. Today, while these rights and the protection afforded them are still important to the American people, we have become extremely vulnerable to having them taken away from us.
Our country is looking at an uncertain future where our National Debt is approaching $18 trillion, an amount most people cannot even fathom, and our federal government has taken on powers that many people think are beyond the scope of its responsibility. The federal government is not the only culprit, the trickle-down effects of the misuse of power is also a problem with local, regional and state governments, as well.
Many people have concluded the problem is not that we have an out-of-date and antiquated Constitution, but instead, we have a government that has gone astray, so much so that it has become difficult to point to any one person, group or organization to put the blame on for our troubles. But we cannot fix our problems by changing the Constitution, or adding more rules. We have to make our government abide by the rules already in place.
The writers of our Constitution were men of wisdom and foresight. Perhaps they could see a time in the future when their fledgling government might become unbalanced, so they wrote an article showing the states how they could put the government back on track, and get their power back. This information is found in Article V of the Constitution.
It's important to remember that an Article V Convention, a gathering of the states to propose an amendment, is not the same as a Constitutional Convention. A Constitutional Convention would be held to "rewrite" the document, and the disruption to our government at its very core has kept this method from happening.
Article V does not set up a Constitutional Convention, as some may think. Instead, it describes how to go about altering the Constitution. Altering the Constitution consists of proposing an amendment or amendments and subsequent ratification processes. Amendments can be adopted and ratified by the states using two methods:
1. A two-thirds majority of both the Senate and the House of Representatives of the
Congress of the United States.
or,
2. By a national convention assembled at the request of the legislatures of at least two-
thirds (presently-34) of the states.
For an amendment to be ratified, the choice is left up to the Congress. They can request that the legislatures of three-fourths (at present 38) of the states ratify the amendment, or three-fourths of the states hold state ratifying conventions. The second method, the state ratifying convention, has only been used one time, in 1933, to ratify the 21st. Amendment. This amendment repealed the 18th. Amendment, the prohibition of alcohol.
Many people probably don't know this, but there have been at least 700 proposals by state legislatures to call for an Article V convention. The only state not doing so has been Hawaii. It seems that even the threat of an Article V convention is sometimes all that's needed to get the Congress to do something. The latest interest in the Article V Convention came to light in Florida last week.
Florida Senator Alan Hays, a conservative Republican is working to gather a truly nonpartisan group of lawmakers behind his attempt to get an Article V convention. Hayes says, "Three areas that we are offering amendments will be to reform the fiscal powers of the federal government, to restrain other powers and jurisdiction of the federal government, and to limit the term limits for federal officials and members of Congress."
In Virginia, on Friday, Del. L. Scott Lingamfelter, R-Prince William, proposed the Commonwealth take on the federal government with House Joint Resolution 9, calling for a convention of the states to “propose amendments to the United States Constitution that impose fiscal restraints on the federal government and limit the terms of office for its officials and members of Congress.”
Whether or not Hayes and Lingamfelter are able to get the backing on a nonpartisan level is doubtful, because most Democrats are not that interested in changing the status quo. It appears that the ones most interested are conservative Republicans, libertarians and constitutionalists.
Michael Farris, founder of Patrick Henry University in Loudoun County, Virginia, launched the Convention of States Project last year. A 1993 Republican nominee for Virginia's Lieutenant Governor race, Farris has opened several chapters across the country, lobbying legislators to push for resolutions calling for a convention.
So it appears that on the fringes, we have those who would want the country to go all the way, meaning write a new Constitution. Then we have those who would want the states to take back the state's power to make the laws, or amendments, something that Congress itself has been doing for some time now.
And lastly, we have a silent group, and who knows just how big it may be, that is happy to let things run on the way they are. This group doesn't mind that our government is out of control in its spending, and it is happy to comply with less freedoms. I question their motives, but at the same time, I understand their fear of the unknown. But the country has to decide very soon just how much power we will allow our government to have, and how much of our rights and freedoms we wish to relinquish. We have to choose what is right.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of DigitalJournal.com
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